Conference Report: NET.ART (SECOND EPOCH)

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Last week I attended the NET.ART (SECOND EPOCH) conference in Buenos Aires, organized by Medialab-Prado. The subtitle, "The Evolution of Artistic Creation in the Net-system" speaks to the broad range of perspectives included at the conference and, indeed, the Madrid-based organization was able to draw participants from all over Latin America, including Argentina, Peru, Brazil, Mexico, and Chile to the week-long panel series, which was hosted by the Centro Cultural de España.

Most of the discussion at the conference centered around framing the history of net art, articulating its recent transitions, and assessing the current state of the field. There was a general agreement that while many critics declared net art dead after the fall of the dot-com economy, it in fact never went anywhere and is instead still thriving.

Minnesota-based curator Steve Dietz and Amsterdam-based critic Josephine Bosma presented keynote talks on the current state of the network and networked art. These talks were framed as "seminars," with each lecture followed by structured group debates. Dietz's talk was entitled "Beyond 'Beyond Interface': Art in the Age of Ubiquitous Networking." He proposed that we consider whether what we are seeing now as truly a second epoch of net art, or rather something more like art after networks. While his talk came before Bosma's closing lecture, the latter looked back farther in taking a different historical perspective. Bosma articulated five generations of networked artists, the first of which predated the public interest. Her paper was prefaced by a confession that critics always view work through the lens of the era in which they came upon the art scene, and that while she is considered an expert in the field, she now feels removed from the present generation of net artists who are no longer working within the "Net ...

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Get Real

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Beginning this weekend, a world wide web of art bloggers, internet artists, online curators and critics will descend upon Capricious Space in Williamsburg for "In Real Life," an exhibition which will showcase some of artwebland's leading lights through revolving 4-hour residencies at the gallery. Laurel Ptak of iheartphotograph curated the show, which she hopes will "explore how the distribution, production, analysis, and consumption of culture are rapidly evolving in an online context. In particular the exhibition aims to render the labor of these online practices transparent, providing 'real life' access to these cultural producers, and overall inspiring public dialogue around their practices." Rhizome will be there "in real life" as well, and we will cover the diverse, funny, and odd performances/hang out sessions/tours proposed by the likes of Art Fag City, ASDF, Club Internet, Ffffound, The Highlights, Humble Arts Foundation, I Heart Photograph, Loshadka, Netmares/Netdreams, Platform For Pedagogy, Private Circulation, UbuWeb, VVORK, and Why + Wherefore in a post later this month. Next week, we will also publish a discussion between Rhizome's Curatorial Fellow Brian Droitcour and Netmares/Netdreams' Kari Altmann, in which she touches on their project for the show. Stay tuned.

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Reaping What You Sow

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Image: Victory Gardens Starter Kit

Artist/designer Amy Franceschini's newest project updates an old idea with continuing social resonance. Her Victory Gardens initiative is an effort to get people growing more of their own food, "for increased local food security and reducing the food miles associated with the average American meal." Not unlike Cat Mazza's Stitch for Senate project, which draws on WWII-era programs to keep people calm about the war and supportive of the troops abroad (in this case, through "charitable knitting"), Franceschini's project spins paranoia about food security and emergency preparedness into a creative community-building strategy. In collaboration with the San Francisco-based organization Garden for the Environment, Victory Gardens facilitates the growing of shared local gardens in the name of urban sustainability. The idea germinated in 2006, when Franceschini made it the focus of her SECA Award installation at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Growing the venture in new directions each year, in 2007 a related book featuring essays by Lucy Lippard and Mike Davis was published by Gallery 16. This year the art project blossomed from a city unification initiative into a full-fledged social networking site! The Garden Registry is an interactive map of "food production zones" through which other victory gardeners can connect with each other, share tips on working organically, and contribute to "an important portrait of land use." The site launched this week and is calling for participants to upload their information. Meanwhile, Franceschini offers potential Bay Area gardeners a tricycle-delivered Starter Kit to get growing. As outlined online, the accoutrements and their delivery mechanism perfectly resemble the spirit of other projects by Futurefarmers, the art and design collective founded by Franceschini with the goal of "making work that is relevant to the time and space surrounding us." - Marisa ...

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Highlights from 2008

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In lieu of a "Best of" we've decided to pull together projects, events and developments within the field of art and technology that we felt were noteworthy. Like all year-end reviews, it would be impossible for this list to be entirely exhaustive, however we do hope that it is, at the very least, indicative of some of the most compelling directions and ideas in circulation over the past 12 months. Rhizome staff John Michael Boling and Ceci Moss assembled this list, with input from Caitlin Jones.


  • Heavy Light Screening Organized by Takeshi Murata at Deitch Projects August 23rd
    I (Ceci) viewed this screening at Deitch, but the same program was also organized at the Mattress Factory as part of the exhibition PREDRIVE: After Technology. While curated by Murata independently of the PREDRIVE show, the program serendipitously hits on some of the same themes. It featured new work by Yoshi Sodeoka, Ben Jones, Devin Flynn, Eric Wareheim and Tim Heidecker, Eric Fensler, Ara Peterson and Dave Fischer, Melissa Brown and Siebren Versteeg, Billy Grant and Takeshi Murata. The videos were followed by live performances by Nate Boyce and Robert Beatty. Murata also screened a number of films on 16mm by experimental animator Adam Beckett, whose work has had little public exposure.

    See "From Bell Labs to Best Buy: Takeshi Murata and Jacob Ciocci in Conversation with PREDRIVE: After Technology Curator Melissa Ragona" on Rhizome
  • Snow Canon (1981) from crystalsculpture

  • Javier Morales's crystalsculpture: 2 /3 /4 YouTube accounts.
    Morales brings together a diverse selection of bootleg art videos, vintage commercials, and other video oddities all culled from his extensive VHS and Laserdisc collection. After watching his uploaded videos, be sure to check out his YouTube favorites on each account.
  • Club Internet, Netmares/Netdreams, Why + Wherefore
    In a recent essay for ...
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    Back To School

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    LA-based arts organization TELIC has been a key player in the West Coast new media scene for over half a decade, mounting significant exhibitions and public programs including both recognized mid-career artists and emerging risk-takers. Now they've taken their own risk of sorts, particularly in what is so turbulent a funding climate for nonprofit arts organizations, by going back to the drawing board to redefine the mandate of presenting media art. Their new "Public School" initiative draws on internet culture's ideals about non-hierarchical (or shall we say "rhizomatic"?) collaborative structures and open source input models to offer an offline transmission of ideas in the form of classes. There are no pop quizzes, report cards, or dress codes in this school, just student-defined curricula in which the public can get together to make art or talk about cultural issues. So far topics have ranged from 8-bit workshops to a Public Service Announcement-making social studies class enticingly titled, "Yo, Dick... Ad Feminem: When Ads Attack." In a true nod to the awesomely collaborative nature of the LA alternative art community, the Public School was recently invited by local allies Machine Project to hold classes at LACMA during their recent intervention-like funfest of public events. After putting out a call for classes to be taught inside a Richard Serra sculpture on the museum grounds, blog readers could vote on course proposals--as is the model for all of their offerings--that included a thoughtfully recursive workshop entitled, "For RICHARD SERRA: me, you and some other creative people in a small but open space learning from each other." You'd never know it from the title, but the class would involve Miranda July (the artist who co-created the arguably pedagogical participatory web project Learning to Love You More with Harrell Fletcher) teaching "a workshop ...

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    Visitor Experience Visualized

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    Video: Response from the iConfessional at Mattress Factory

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    Image: Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz, Hole-In-Space, 1980

    Mattress Factory went live with their iConfessional kiosk recently, which allows visitors to instantly post response videos to museum exhibitions using YouTube's Quick Capture feature. Mattress Factory's Jeffrey Inscho got the idea from the Brooklyn Museum, who built a video response station for their exhibition The Black List Project using the same technology. Both illustrate ways museums are attempting to use the web to enhance visitor experience; as the lowercase "i", Apple's signature branding for personal customization, they are geared towards allowing visitors to visualize and share their responses to the exhibition, i.e. leave their personal mark. Simple and inexpensive to implement, it's not difficult to imagine that stations like these will become more commonplace. I viewed an installation of Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz's Hole-In-Space (1980) at the "Art of Participation" exhibition at SFMOMA two weeks ago and I was both amused and blown away by the footage. In the work, crowds in New York City and LA could video conference with one another via this public installation. The crowds were clearly elated about this possibility, hooting and hollering at live feeds of their counterparts on the other side of the country. It was amazing to see their excitement, especially now that video conferencing has become so ubiquitous. This activity hits at the heart of participation online -- but it also raises questions in regards to the limits of this sort of participation, especially if it is realized in the form of talk back mechanisms, such as video kiosks, which are simply an addendum to a larger exhibition, and do not influence its scope or shape.

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    New Project by the Institute for the Future of the Book Investigates Collaborative Close Reading

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    Image: The Golden Notebook (Screengrab)

    In his 1970 book S/Z , Roland Barthes attempted to interject a new form of textual interpretation which foregrounds the experience of the reader. His description of the topos of meaning in which a text passes is beautifully prophetic to the sensation of reading within the networked environment, stating, "The blanks and looseness of the analysis will be like footprints marking the escape of the text; for if the text is subject to some form, this form is not unitary, architectonic, finite: it is the fragment, the shards, the broken or obliterated network -- all the movements and inflections of a vast "dissolve," which permits both the overlapping and loss of messages." Barthes' sentiments echo through the genre of electronic literature, emergent in the 1990s, and carry on in the Institute for the Future of the Book's latest project, The Golden Notebook, which went live yesterday. This 1962 novel by Doris Lessing candidly chronicles the life of Anna Wulf, and is narrated through the vantage of several separate notebooks. Uploaded on a site similar to Google Books, the Institute invited seven notable female authors to read the book and carry on conversations in a forum adjacent to the text. While group discussion online is old news, the possibility of uploading and reading entire books online is still a recent development, and it carries with it a number of crucial debates. By adapting the model of a reading group, one that parallels the text itself, it follows precisely with the Institute's mission to investigate the "ecology of readers, authors and texts" surrounding the networked book. One other dimension to the project, which is strangely absent from the press release and the site's Q&A section, is the decision to invite a group of female ...

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    Spreading the Wealth

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    An exhibition at Philadelphia's Basekamp, entitled "What's Mine Is Yours" speculates loosely about the origin of the eponymous phrase, asking if it a Jewish proverb or a socialist ideal, while also working to answer the bigger question of why on earth artists would want to collaborate -- with each other or their audiences. While the art market encourages single authors, hierarchy, and conceptual or physical territorialism, in "What's Mine Is Yours" curator Sara Reisman has encouraged artists to share their feelings about.... sharing. The results are intriguingly as politically charged as they are mystical. Take, for example, Star Systems, a video work in which Bjorn Kjelltoft and Shana Moulton merged their identities. While Rey Akdogan's list of the pros and cons of collaborating could be read as a manifesto, tongue-in-cheek, or fair warning, the Mercury Twins' nebulous Cloud City invites the public to cluster like instant cloud formations. The show opens today and also includes radio-performance work by Kabir Carter and a real-time public networking project by vydavy sindikat. - Marisa Olson

    Image: Bjorn Kjelltoft and Shana Moulton, Broken Meatballs with Infinity, 2007 (Video Still)

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    Share and Share Alike

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    Long before flash mobs, liveblogging, and file-sharing were part of the vernacular, artists were creating social sculptures and elaborate systems for public collaboration. The upcoming SFMOMA exhibition, "The Art of Participation: 1950 to Now" takes a sweeping look at work that addresses co-authorship, exchange, and rapidity--all themes we associate with life in a digital society, but which the show traces back within a post-war art historical context. Organized by the museum's new media curator, Rudolf Frieling, the show includes works ranging from groundbreaking projects by Vito Acconci, John Baldessari, John Cage, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Dan Graham, Hans Haacke, Lynn Hershman, Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik, and Andy Warhol, to contemporary work by Jonah Brucker-Cohen, Janet Cardiff, Minerva Cuevas, Antoni Muntadas, the Raqs Media Collective, Warren Sack, and Erwin Wurm. The show also casts a glance at the ways in which the title's theme has evolved with communicative media. Take, for instance, the old-fashioned gesture of audience participation. Tom Marioni's legendary public project The Act of Drinking Beer With Friends Is the Highest Form of Art offers an intoxicating stance on the act, while MTAA's Automatic for the People: ( ) allows you to vote on the theme, props, and even subtitle of a performance they'll publicly enact at the museum on November 7th. If you can't make it to San Francisco to see the show and participate live, you can, of course, get in on the act with the online works. Because, really, the show's nothing without you. - Marisa Olson

    Image: Lygia Clark, Diálogo:

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